New developer to revive neighborhood surrounding Pinckney Retreat

Once a working plantation -- and most recently a gated residential development in foreclosure -- the Pinckney Retreat neighborhood along Battery Creek is poised for rebirth this year under a new Virginia-based owner.

East West Communities recently purchased 44 wooded lots in the neighborhood off Parris Island Gateway from Ameris Bank of Georgia, which bought the foreclosed property last year, according to East West Communities project manager Jim Beckner.

The company has 20 lots for sale and plans to start construction on three homes by the end of March, Beckner said.

Sprawling live oaks dripping with Spanish moss and a circa 1750 tabby-style house believed to be the oldest plantation residence in Beaufort County help give the neighborhood a quintessentially Lowcountry feel developers say they want to maintain.

"This is the prettiest piece of land we've ever worked with," Beckner said. "It's just gorgeous."

The neighborhood consists of 77 home sites situated around the one-and-a-half story tabby house that Historic Beaufort Foundation says was built by French Huguenot Jean de le Gaye (aka Jean de la Gaye). The house, known as the Retreat, overlooks Battery Creek and Parris Island.

The foundation said the original home likely dates to sometime around 1750 before Gaye left South Carolina for France in 1769. But remodeling suggests the house likely underwent major renovations in the early 19th century, according to the foundation.

The neighborhood's homeowners association owns the house, said Connie Pollard, East West Communities' senior vice president of marketing.

The company closed on the 25 interior and 19 marsh-front lots in late December and has started sprucing up the site.

"When the last developer left and the bank took it over, they cut back way too much on expenses," Beckner said. "We've started cleaning up and working on the landscaping."

Of the neighborhood's 77 home sites, more than 30 were sold when Pinckney Retreat Development Co. owned the land, according to that company's website at the time.

Seven houses have been built, Beckner said.

East West Communities expects interior lots will start in the mid-$50,000s. Interior sites with homes will start at about $350,000, Pollard said.

Marek-Polk Realty Group-ERA Evergreen Real Estate is handling home and homesite sales.

Established in 1972, the Richmond, Va., company was originally part of the Sea Pines Co., known for its work on Hilton Head Island, according to a news release.

The company has developed 35 communities across seven states, encompassing more than 15,000 homes according to a news release.

"This opportunity is one that our team has desired since we became independent of Sea Pines many years ago," Gary Fenchuk, the company's CEO, said in the release. "The natural beauty and majesty of the Lowcountry coastal region is breathtaking and cannot be replicated anywhere in the world."